How We Share Impacts the Whole System 

Modern media has “Mediocrity Disease”. Only we can fix it!

Quick history. Pre-internet, our primary access to media (e.g. news and music) was through a “mainstream”, a stream which consisted of primarily major network broadcasting channels and stations. Then the internet came along, socialized media, gave us free and open access, and disrupted the business models which made the broadcast economy possible. And there are still huge problems to contend with, like fair compensation for artists, and quality and accuracy of modern internet journalism. I think a lot of this boils down to how we share content socially within the fabric of our social networks.

You know Idina Mendzel? (The “Frozen” Lady.) She may be a fine theatrical singer, but she is not of the caliber of artist who belongs in the number 1 spot of the Billboard charts, at least, to my bias. (No A&R person would have ever “discovered” this woman, I promise you.) Hearing her on the radio for the first time was a disturbing moment for me, personally. I wondered, “How did we get here?”

Mendzel's song from the Movie "Frozen" hit #1 on Billboard chart.

Mendzel’s song from the Movie “Frozen” hit #1 on Billboard chart.

Well, for one thing, the initial vetting of artist’s quality and talent used to be done in the hands of A&R people. Now,  the public has that control, as we select our listening choices primarily on what is most visible, and what is visible is determined by what is most popular. In turn,  what is popular is determined in large measure by… what we share. The problem is, we don’t share based upon what we think is commercially viable, but a completely different set of reasons. Yet, these end up being our mainstream choices.

What does a mainstream of crap mean for the future? An internet flooded with mediocrity could 1)  increase demand  for exceptional artists as they become more scarce. Or, (2) over expose us to mediocrity in the mainstream and, as the result, dumb down our tastes, and marginalize great artists into a sub-culture. I’m not sure which I think is more likely…

Citizen journalism. Is destroying its accuracy in the pursuit of clicks. Oh my God, misinformation is rampant. And it’s not entirely because  how publisher handle news on a large scale — but how we share as individuals. Everyday people pass on factoid memes, particularly ones political or social in nature, without checking them for accuracy. A few weeks ago a meme showed up in my facebook feed comparing two cases of alleged child neglect for the purpose of making a point about racial inequity. Turns out these claims were completely false, but people will still share it, because it strikes a chord in the moment, or makes some point they want to spread, or whatever. I dunno, I see these news memes ala bite-sized information nuggets kind of like junk food. We snack on them because they “seem” good in the moment and are available.  It’s also kind of like tabloid news on a micro scale: Publishing what you heard, not what you investigated.

In a digital economy where popularity  impacts commercial markets more than almost anything else, how we shares really does impact the whole system.  We can choose to shape the mainstream according to our tastes and interests, or we can let it be dominated by our impulses, which do not always represent what we think is valuable or high quality. In the sense that anyone can publish or access media on the internet, the internet media is “free” – we all own it – and ownership implies responsibility.

TLDR: Essentially, what we focus on increases, and what we do effects everyone else.

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